For many of us, relationships are a source of joy and fulfillment. The experiences we share with our significant other contribute to our mental health by helping us grow emotionally.
In fact, a healthy and fulfilling relationship can be the foundation for personal and professional development. We seek advice from our partner when we’re thinking about making a career shift, and we offer emotional support when they go through a rough patch.
But the balance and harmony that you and your life partner have cultivated over the years can be quickly ruined by mental illness.
Problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress, can cause severe damage to your relationship. Countless couples broke up or got divorced because one of them was dealing with an emotional problem that they just couldn’t overcome on their own.
As harsh as it may sound, love doesn’t always prevail. It’s hard to make it work when one of you is in constant emotional pain, while the other tries to provide support and keep the relationship alive at the same time.
Before you continue reading, I want you to know that the purpose of this article is not to provide you with a way out of mental illness but help you keep your relationship alive.
Taking Action Before It’s Too Late
Many of us tend to take relationships for granted. We get so accustomed to being around the person we love that we forget how quickly we can lose them because of our (or their) mental illness.
The damaging effect that mental illness has on your relationship is gradual. It doesn’t happen all at once. As time passes, all that frustration, moodiness, criticism, and stonewalling creates friction between you and your partner.
If neither of you does something about it, sooner or later, the relationship will come to an end.
According to a 2015 study, people who struggle with depression and anxiety tend to carry their negative thinking into their social interactions, which leads to an overall decrease in relationship satisfaction.
Furthermore, a 2017 study revealed that low self-esteem – which is often a symptom of depression and anxiety – predicts relationship break-up.
If you are the one struggling with mental illness, one easy way to determine if your condition puts your relationship at risk is by paying attention to what others say to you.
Do your friends or life partner say that you’re a “buzz kill”? Are they complaining about your negative and pessimistic attitude? If the answer is yes, then perhaps it’s time to act before your relationship is beyond repair.
The signs of an incoming disaster are always there. But you can’t always see it because you’re either dealing with too much emotional pain or you’re too busy providing the support your partner needs.
But regardless of the position you’re in, you can always keep your relationship alive, despite all the frustration, pain, and suffering caused by mental illness.
When YOU Are Struggling With Mental Illness
When you are the one struggling with mental illness, you can do the following to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship:
#1 Be mindful of your partner’s needs
When struggling with mental illness, we often find it difficult to consider our partner’s needs. We get so caught up in negative thinking and painful emotions that we forget to recognize and care for our partner’s needs.
And it’s not because we’re selfish or ignorant. I’m sure each of us loves their significant other and wants to see them happy.
It’s just that mental illness drains our energy to the point where we feel too exhausted to get involved in what our significant other enjoys doing.
But no matter how demotivated it’s crucial to make an extra effort and get involved in something that you both enjoy. In fact, being mindful of your partner’s needs will not only keep the relationship alive but also help you overcome your bad mood.Mental illness can drain our energy to the point where we feel too exhausted to get involved in what our significant other enjoys doing Click To Tweet
#2 Be reasonable
One of the consequences of mental illness is a general lack of motivation.
When you’re constantly struggling with negative thoughts and your self-esteem plummets, even simple tasks such as taking out the trash might seem too exhausting.
That’s when you look to your partner for support and understanding. But if you lay all the responsibility on his/her shoulders, your relationship will inevitably suffer.
Considering that you might be struggling with a condition more powerful than your ability to cope, it’s perfectly understandable why you need some extra push – and your partner knows that. But you can’t expect him/her to be available and supportive 24/7.
Sooner or later, you need to find a way to deal with mental illness and take back control of your life, before your relationship crashes and burns.
#3 Be open to receiving professional help
No matter how empathetic, kind, or caring your partner might be, they won’t always be able to provide the emotional support that you need. Furthermore, the support that your significant other strives to offer might not always be the support you need.
Overcoming mental illness is a long and laborious process that requires the input of a mental health professional.
With the help of a counselor or therapist, you can learn to manage your condition without putting too much pressure on your life partner.
When Your Partner is Struggling With Mental Illness
Is your partner the one suffering from mental illness? Here are some tips to help both of you cope better:
#1 Be patient
Mental illness is a serious problem that can jeopardize the stability of your relationship. When your partner is struggling with a psychological disorder, telling him/her to get over it won’t help.
As hard as it may sound, the best thing you can do for your significant other is to have patience. Don’t try to force him/her into seeking professional help, but kindly explain why the future of your relationship depends on overcoming mental illness – together, as a couple.
Be there for him/her and look for solutions together.
#2 Be an active listener
Active listening is one of the key ingredients of effective therapy. But you don’t have to be a counselor or therapist to use it.
Each of us can lend an empathetic ear and make our depressed or anxious partner feel understood. In fact, active listening is what helps you resonate with your partner’s pain and suffering thus creating an emotional bridge between the two of you.
Listen to understand and empathize, not just to have something to say when it’s your turn to speak.Listen to understand and empathize, not just to have something to say when it’s your turn to speak Click To Tweet
#3 Be empathetic
In a nutshell, being empathetic means putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling what the other person feels.
Along with active listening, empathy leads to a sense of understanding. In other words, you get a glimpse of the pain, frustration, and suffering that your significant other experiences.
That gives you a whole new perspective on the problem. Instead of getting angry and frustrated with their constant complains, you learn to practice tolerance and patience.
At the same time, cultivating empathy shows your partner that he/she is not alone.
Keeping your relationship healthy is tricky.
Unfortunately, when one partner is dealing with mental illness, the stability of the couple is at risk. That’s when patience, understanding, empathy, and active listening become vital elements that can prevent separation or divorce.
If you’re struggling with mental illness, it’s essential to seek help from a counselor or therapist as soon as possible. Otherwise, your mental health might not be the only thing that crashes and burns.
So, what do you think about our post on preventing mental illness from ruining your relationship? Are there any tips that have helped you keep your relationship alive despite your (or your partner’s) mental illness?
Share your experiences with us!
Clinical Psychologist, Licensed CBT Therapist.I’m a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy practitioner. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to manage and prevent the most common mental issues – anxiety, depression, and stress.
When I’m not busy with my therapeutic practice or other work-related activities, I enjoy going out for a jog or hit the nearby gym.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via LinkedIn (link below), or through the Contact Us page.